$50,000 software settlement: Who's Next?

$50,000 software settlement: Who's Next?

Magazine publisher Next Media has accused the Business Software Association of Australia (BSAA) of making "false and misleading" statements about the company's alleged use of illegal software.

Next's accusation follows the release of a BSAA statement yesterday, which claimed the publisher had agreed to pay an out-of-court settlement of $50,000 to the privately funded software industry group for using "at least 40 (pirated) copies each of Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator and Microsoft Office".

Next Media is the publisher of Rolling Stone, PC Powerplay and magazines and The Australian Net Directory. Next also provides enterprise internet products.

The managing director of Next, Phil Keir, told The Wire the statement was "false and misleading", as well as defamatory. Next had already requested that the BSAA withdraw the statement, he said.

Next issued a statement this morning complaining that the Next Media company name was defamed in the statement because the organisation involved in the BSAA dispute was Next Publishing, not Next Media.

Nevertheless, Next Publishing is a division of Next Media.

Next also claimed that the BSAA had never proven that the publisher used the exact number of illegal software copies as reported in the statement. However, as BSAA chairman Jim Macnamara pointed out, the BSAA claim of exactly how many copies of the pirated software Next used "was never tested in court".

Next also complained that a technically inaccurate report on ABC youth radio station Triple J -- that referred to Next's payment as a fine, rather than a settlement payment -- had stemmed from misleading information in the BSAA statement.

"We're standing by it (the statement)," Macnamara said.

It is believed that the BSAA's interest in Next was sparked from repeated employee complaints to the industry group requesting their employer be forced to provide staff with legal software.

A Next employee, who did not wish to be named, said that pirated software had already been removed from the company's systems, but staff were still required to download pirated versions of gaming and entertainment software in order to complete product reviews for publication.

The illegal software had been used by staff because company budget requirements did not allow for the cost of new software, they said.

"They (management) knew what was happening, but they just didn't think they'd get caught," the employee said.

"They (staff) are being given half the tools to do the job, then they get blamed," another anonymous employee said. "How are they going to do the job without any tools?"That employee said the company had a staff turnover rate of around 30 per cent annually, primarily due to the poor provision of vital resources such as software.

Other employee reports suggest that Keir was warned repeatedly by staff that the company risked attracting fines for its ongoing use of illegal software.

But yet another anonymous employee defended Keir's failure to act on warnings, claiming he was currently in the process of an "incremental" rollout of new software, due to rapid company expansion.

That employee said the BSAA had initially approved of the company's interim use of pirated software until budgetary limitations were eased. But the BSAA denied this and took action against Next after it failed to show records of its software use over the last six months.

A BSAA spokesperson said the privately funded industry group had never "offered any leniency" to Next. The BSAA had entered into the settlement after Next failed to erase pirated software from its systems after a BSAA systems audit over one year ago, the spokesperson said.

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